Each day during the month of April, the Institute will feature one of the 30 ‘perspectives’ from the One Ocean report. These short articles include a diverse range of views regarding oceans management in New Zealand. Enjoy!


Gregory O’Brien, Poet, artist, 2015 Stout Memorial Fellow, Victoria University of Wellington

Experiencing the Kermadec

I imagine commercial interests will be given a good chance to pick over the Kermadec waters and seabed, north of New Zealand, before we are allowed to seriously consider the prospect of a 620,000 square kilometre Kermadec marine sanctuary. It makes me wonder if, back in 1953, New Zealand would have gained the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park if the mineral-rich alps had first been opened up to commercial interests. Luckily, a national park based around the nation’s highest landmark was achieved without having to go down that path. So why not declare a reserve around New Zealand’s deepest territory: the Kermadec Trench?

In 2011 Niuean-born artist John Pule and I were among a group of artists who sailed the Kermadec waters on HMNZS Otago. Upon our return, we collaborated on this etching – What I did and did not have – reflecting on our immersion in the life-giving, munificent, yet currently threatened, ocean environment.

As Pacific peoples, our lives are defined and shaped by the ocean; its waters permeate our being. The ocean is our identity – our pride and inspiration. Diving into the precious Kermadec waters, we realised we were, to borrow from Janet Frame, ‘entering the human heart’. In a responsible world, such an immeasurable resource would be nurtured, cherished and raised up, far above the forces of rampant monetarism and the wholesale exploitation of material resources.

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